Episode #213: Are Problem-Based Lessons Always The Right Approach to Teaching Math? – A Math Mentoring Moment
In this episode, we speak with Kyle Greenholt, a 15-year teaching veteran from Pennsylvania about the common struggle educators face when designing and facilitating math intervention classes to help students who have had ongoing struggles with mathematics.
Kyle is in a tug of war with two competing ideas in his mind and heart. He knows and wants to teach his students using problem-based lesson utilizing strategies while at the same time knows his students need more individualized support.
In this episode we help Kyle realize why a “one size fits all” strategy may not be appropriate for his classroom and that sometimes a problem based lesson is not the most effective approach for his intervention class.
- Why “breaking the script” is more likely to be a moment your students remember from your math class;
- Why doing what you’ve always done in a standard grade level classroom may not be the best approach in an intervention class;
- Whether a problem based lesson is the most effective approach for use in an intervention class; and,
- An approach those teaching math intervention or support classes will find helpful to reach more students.
Kyle Greenholt: Because right now, the instruction in the classroom level, while it's excellent instruction, is not always geared around really wrestling with the mathematics. I know that they need to do that, I'd give them problems or we work through mini units that you guys would do or even a Dan Meyer Three-Act Task. That's great and I can assess that and it helps them, but it doesn't then show on their scores.
Kyle Pearce: In this episode, we speak with Kyle Greenholt, 15-year teaching veteran from Pennsylvania, about the common struggle educators face when designing and facilitating math intervention classes to help students who have had ongoing struggles with math.
Jon Orr: Kyle is in a tug of war with two competing ideas in his mind and his heart. He knows and wants to teach his students using problem-based lessons utilizing strategies and models, while at the same time, he knows the students need more individualized support. In this episode, we help Kyle realize that a one size fits all strategy may not be appropriate for his classroom and that sometimes a problem-based lesson is not always the most effective approach for his intervention class.
Kyle Pearce: Well, Math Moment Makers, let's do this. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are two math teachers from makemathmoments.com, who together-
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of Math Moment Makers worldwide, who want to build and deliver problem-based math lessons that spark curiosity.
Jon Orr: Fuel sense making.
Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves, welcome, my friends, to another Math Mentoring Moment episode where, actually, Jon, I just said it, it's all about designing problem-based math lessons, but tonight, we're going to be chatting with a maker-
Jon Orr: Breaking the script.
Kyle Pearce: ... of the Math Mentoring Moment community. We're going to chat about whether the problem-based approach is always the way to go or maybe if there's some situations where other approaches might be the way to go.
Jon Orr: This is the second Mentoring Moment in a row where we talk with an interventionist teacher and talk about how we help students who are in these classrooms where they're taking two math classes a day, one in the intervention class and then in their regular math class and going between the two. So, we talk about strategies here in this episode and we can't wait to share them with you.
Kyle Pearce: All right, my friends, let's dig in. Here is Kyle.
Jon Orr: Hey there, Kyle, thanks for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast. How are you doing?
Kyle Greenholt: I'm doing great. I'm really excited to be on the podcast tonight.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome.
Jon Orr: Awesome.
Kyle Pearce: Well, listen, you already have a huge fan, because guess what? You've got a pretty awesome name. We want to know where are you coming to us from and tell us a little bit about your backstory, what got you in education and what's your current role?
Kyle Greenholt: My name's Kyle Greenholt. I'm coming to you from York, Pennsylvania, just a small town in the central Pennsylvania. What really led me to teaching was I backed into it. I originally went to school to be a veterinarian, but I actually just listened to your growth mindset episode today, you guys hit a wall when you went to college, I hit a wall, too. I never studied, never did really all that kind of stuff through high school, and then college hit me. So, then once I got out of that, I realized I wanted to work with kids, I wanted to be in education, and after a couple switches finally decided on math because it was something I was, quote unquote, good at, so that's what led me to becoming a math teacher.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome.
Kyle Greenholt: I've been teaching for 16 years now and I've bounced around between public and charter schools and also inner city, urban schools and suburban schools. Right now, I teach-
Kyle Pearce: Good range there you've got going on.
Kyle Greenholt: I've taught everywhere from 7th grade through 12th grade and I've even taught remedial courses at the college level, as well.
Jon Orr: Interesting. Wow.
Kyle Greenholt: I'm doing it all.
Jon Orr: You've got a full gamut of experience there, spanning such a wide variety. What's your favorite grade to teach, 7th through 12th?
Kyle Pearce: Didn't prepare him for this one, Jon.
Jon Orr: No, I didn't. This is just off the cuff.
Kyle Greenholt: Off the cuff. So, I'm actually, now that my new role, I'm able to work with 6th grade and that's actually starting to turn out to be my more fun, because I'm starting to learn how to do that, because it's not something I've done in 16 years. So, right now, it's 6th grade, because it's a challenge for me, if that makes sense.
Jon Orr: Yeah, it does.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I'll tell you, 6th grade, well, I'll actually back up, too, and say even in 4th and 5th grade, when you start doing the switch from that additive thinking to multiplicative thinking and you're really entering into ratios, rates, proportional relationships, that's 6th grade, in the Common Core, anyway, is where that explodes and there's tons of fun, or torture, depending on what side of the coin you're on, that can be. I know for me, I look at it and I'm like, "My most favorite math to teach now is in that grade level, for sure."
Kyle Greenholt: Yeah, absolutely. I was just looking today at how to teach decimals more conceptually, because as I know it, it's line up the decimal point, add, or count how many, so I'm trying to learn it anew, which is really fun.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. The moment that I made a connection, and I think it was through that book I always talk about, which is the Van de Walle book about Elementary and Middle School Mathematics Teaching Developmentally, I'm looking at it over here on a shelf. In that book, I'm pretty sure it's in there, where I finally made the connection that I'm like, "Wow, decimals are just a very limited set of fractions I can play with." I'm like, "Huh, when you think of the tenths column, it's like I can only have tenths or hundreds or thousands. There's so many other fraction options and that's what you're restricted to." I'm like, "Wow," I never thought of it the same way again and it really led me to learn more about fractions. So, just the thought, as you explore down that path, there's so much to be learned thinking about it from a limited fraction perspective instead of decimals as you and I remember it from our own experience.
Kyle Greenholt: Right. Thank you.
Jon Orr: Kyle, something we've got to ask every guest is about your Math Moment, so stretch back, think about your experiences as a student when you were younger. When we say math class, something usually sticks with people, something usually pops into their mind of this vivid memory of math class. Fill us in on yours.
Kyle Greenholt: Mine was probably 9th grade algebra working with the TI-84 calculators that could hook up to the motion sensors.
Jon Orr: Oh yes, CBRs.
Kyle Pearce: CBR Rangers.
Kyle Greenholt: I remember my teacher making us walk away from the CBR and then towards the CBR and then seeing what that did on my calculator and then just having it make sense of with a negative slope, I was walking towards. It was just something I can remember from those times.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. I used to do those activities with students, too. First of all, it was the activity if you were getting evaluated, I was like, "Oh yeah, it's got to be this one."
Jon Orr: That's a good one.
Kyle Pearce: Because I'm like, "This is the only time in my school year that I will have the kids up and do something active," at that time, back when we were using the Rangers. Now, it's a very different experience, but I do remember that and I was looking forward to that lesson and kids really enjoyed it. Honestly, though, you think about the connections that students are able to make when you see the behavior of the graph, it's like, "Wow," it really comes to life. That's a pretty cool Math Moment that you took away there.
Jon Orr: A lot of memories there.
Kyle Pearce: We always like to know, does that have an influence or an impact on your teaching style, do you think? Is that something that you explicitly remembered and thought of and made connections, or is it maybe just a memory that you're thinking of now that you're on the podcast? Has it had that influence or was it something that maybe just snuck in there along the way?
Jon Orr: It stuck with you for a reason.
Kyle Greenholt: Within the traditional learning, it was one of the few times we weren't in a row in a seat, we are actually up doing something. It also was a little experimental and we got to do it on our own, so that kind of stuff really stuck with me, the experimental and doing something and then seeing it happen in math terms really stuck with me.
Kyle Pearce: Well, we talk about those moments, eh, Jon, the power of moments and they talk about the ending-
Jon Orr: The breaking the script.
Kyle Pearce: ... or the beginning of something or breaking a script and that's exactly it, what I heard you just say there, Kyle. It stands out, because it was like there was all these other days that feel the same and then all of a sudden, there's this different day and it stands out. It's hard to do that all the time in a math class, but every now and again, if you can come up with something like that that will break that script a little bit, it's definitely something that'll help students remember that experience a little bit, so super, super cool. I'm wondering, is that something that you're doing in your teaching or is that something you're conscious of when you're trying to plan your lessons, or are you on a different path? What does that look like or sound like?
Kyle Greenholt: So, this year is actually brand new for me because, and this is the reason I reached out to you, I'm entering a new role. I left being the regular classroom teacher and now for my new district, I'm a math specialist/math interventionist. So, I'm no longer really in front of the classroom teaching a full load of classrooms, I'm supporting classroom teachers now. I have a little bit different of a role and it's always looking at how do I teach different, how do I present them something different, so that's always the lens I'm looking at things from now.
Jon Orr: Got it, got it. So, fill us in a little bit. You're right, this was the reason you reached out to us. Thinking about this intervention class or the series of intervention classes you have currently, what's the big struggle right now for you with those classes?
Kyle Greenholt: So, the classes right now, it's a supplemental class for about 30 kids per grade, so a total of 90 kids in the school. They come to the intervention support class for 45 minutes a day every day. My role, as I see it, is we're a very data-driven school, so my role is to increase scores. We use IXL. Are you familiar with the IXL program and their diagnostics?
Jon Orr: Definitely.
Kyle Greenholt: We're a big proponent of IXL. So, the students I'm working with are generally two to three to four grade levels behind and I'm working with them to try to boost skills, essentially, to get them caught up.
Kyle Pearce: Now, I'm wondering, so that definitely aligns with when people hear about that intervention specialist or teacher who's working with these students, so typically, they're definitely going to be behind, you're probably getting the students who need that support the most, so you're not talking about just a student who's just below, just missing a few things, you're talking where you've got some students that maybe fell off that math bus at some point. My wonder is, this is all a wonder before we dig into what that looks like and sounds like in your class, I'm wondering, is this the first year that they would have had an opportunity for an intervention-style course or is there any earlier preventative or we'll call it proactive measures, or this is a reactive measure, when students fall behind, we go, "Uh-oh, we're in bad shape here, so we're going to do this intervention"? What might that look like or sound like for these students? Have they been involved in this sort of experience or is this the first time, is this an experiment for the district? Give us a little context there.
Kyle Greenholt: So, this is actually the first year this program has even existed in the middle school, so I'm creating the program as we go.
Kyle Pearce: Lucky you. Challenging stuff.
Kyle Greenholt: I'm brand new to the district, too, so I don't have a deep breadth of knowledge of what happens in the elementary school. I know they use, are you familiar with SpringMath?
Kyle Pearce: Actually, yes. I was on a call with them not long ago learning a little bit about it. I'm going to look it up, because I'm trying to remember the researcher behind it. Now, my question for you is, are you familiar with it and what are your thoughts on it?
Kyle Greenholt: I'm familiar with it in enough that I can run it, because it is very scripted for you, but I understand the philosophy. It's doing your basic facts, but thinking about them not as basic facts, so if you're doing double-digit subtraction, using different techniques other than the standard algorithm to get that answer and learning how to do that fluently and quickly, so I'm familiar with SpringMath. That will identify students for individual intervention, which they may have gotten at the elementary level, but it's never been a standalone class.
Kyle Pearce: Got it, got it. That's interesting. I just double checked in it, I was on a call there with Amanda VanDerHeyden, which is one of the researchers involved there, so a very interesting program there. I took a bit of a deep dive in there, I was very curious about it. Awesome. So, they've had not an actual intervention course, but they've had some sort of, we'll call it an intervention tool to be leveraged inside the classroom. Take us on a dive into your classroom. What do the makeups of your classes look like, class size, grade level span-ish that students are in, and give us an overview here?
Kyle Greenholt: Each grade level has two periods, so I would see two periods of 6th grade, two periods of 7th grade, two periods of 8th grade, each with about 10 to 15 students in the classroom.
Kyle Pearce: Got it. So, paint us a picture of what it looks like in,, say one of those grades for you.
Kyle Greenholt: In the 6th grade classroom, initially, I fell back onto just my being a teacher for 15 years and doing what I did in the classroom and teaching many lessons and giving them problems even off of your website to let them wrestle with the mathematics, because I know that's deeply what they need to do. Because right now, the instruction in the classroom level, while it's excellent instruction, is not always geared around really wrestling with the mathematics. I know that they need to do that, I'd give them problems or we'd work through mini units that you guys would do or even a Dan Meyer Three-Act Task. That's great and I can assess that and it helps them, but it doesn't then show on their scores, if that makes sense.
Kyle Pearce: Love it, love it.
Jon Orr: That does make sense. So, is the struggle here that you're trying these, because I think you said that you started that way, but is that what you're doing now and then is that the struggle you're having, is trying to grapple with this like, "I want to do this, but I am not doing this now"?
Kyle Greenholt: It's the balance of it. I'm also being pulled in quite a few different directions, so I don't always have the time that I need to devote to doing that, as well.
Kyle Pearce: I want to just reiterate something I heard you say earlier, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you were saying that typically, you are looking at students who are two to four grade levels behind, so you've got a vast, wide range. So, if you're working with the Grade 6 group, you might be working with students that are at a Grade 2 level, which is going to be more in that additive thinking world, and then you might be working with some Grade 4s who were trying to push into this multiplicative world and that obviously is going to pose a challenge. Now, mind you, these are the same challenges you have in a typical classroom, in a standard grade level classroom, but maybe not as dramatic.
So, now, you triple your number of students, but maybe you half the range of the average student, but there's still those students in your classroom, they just might not have been the squeaky wheel. You didn't notice it as well because they got maybe drowned out in the rest of the students. You look around the room, there's enough kids nodding, "Yep, I'm with you," that you're like, "All right," but there was still that five or six kids that were probably in the same boat that were struggling, they just may not have maybe gained our attention or got us thinking about that. So, you're in this place, you've got some students, I've got a funny feeling, you didn't mention this yet, but I have a funny feeling if I had to take a guess that your students aren't exactly the most excited to come into a intervention math class, correct me if I'm wrong? What would you say the mindset-
Jon Orr: Wild guess.
Kyle Greenholt: Typically, no, they're not thrilled about being in an extra math class.
Kyle Pearce: Oh, so this is layered on top, as well?
Jon Orr: This is one of those intervention, this is like, "I've got my class and I'm now over here." I think we just talked with Laura Campion on this, I think it was the same idea, but this is an interesting dynamic that students now have this double period of math, with this idea that we're going to strengthen them here so they can go back to the classroom-
Kyle Greenholt: Exactly.
Jon Orr: ... and they may be like, "Catch up. Catch up." So, Kyle, you've got this dynamic that you're battling the balance here. What have you done so far to mitigate or to bring balance into this situation?
Kyle Greenholt: So, really, I'm going back and forth between days of wrestling with problems, doing Open Middle-type problems and then working on just the computer to boost their IXL scores on the IXL program.
Kyle Pearce: Awesome. I'm wondering, I want to dig a little deeper here, too, with that. So, let's say you're in your class, some students are working on IXL, is there any opportunities for pulling a small group or working... Are you just popping around sometimes, it's desk-to-desk type thing or is there an intentional, "Hey I'm going to call these three students, 'Hey come on and meet me,'" is there any of that going on or a structure that you're playing with to try to get that into the classroom at all?
Kyle Greenholt: Yeah, absolutely. I usually group based on skill level in that class, because then I can hit a general topic with a small group. So, I'm doing small group instruction with some on topics I know that they need, especially for the course, while others are working on other topics at their own pace.
Kyle Pearce: Very cool. Tell us, also, because you were saying sometimes you're doing more open-ended, you had mentioned more problem-based things like tasks, what does that look like, sound like? Are you feeling like that is having a positive effect? Are you hitting a roadblock there? Are students throwing their arms up and saying, "I don't know what to do"? Give us a visual or a little bit of an insight as to what that looks like.
Kyle Greenholt: So, the reason I really like doing it is because it forces them to talk and I can actually hear their thinking, which is what I really... Because then also, it lets me know a lot more of their misconceptions, so it lets me hit those a lot faster. So I really like listening to them and it's often I tell them, "Guys, I don't really care about the answer at this point. I want to know just what are you thinking? How are you thinking about attacking this problem?" That's really what I want to focus on, because I know they're numbers since already isn't that great, so they're going to make mistakes on that, so I want to know what they're thinking, that type of stuff, when doing these problems.
Kyle Pearce: Good.
Jon Orr: That's great. We've always said those types of tasks, these problem-based lesson tasks are a gold mine for formative assessment and understanding what your students know or don't know, just by, like you said, listening to them. Listening to them, you can learn so much information about the strategies that students are using or not using and such a wealth of information that normally you wouldn't get if you just launched into the, "Here's how you do a problem." So, I'm thinking about some of the times that I use those types of problems, as well, and I used them for the same purpose you just quoted, which is discussion, discourse, defending ideas, reasoning, proving, getting all these great skills that we want in our classroom. My question here is once that kind of learning has come out or like you said, you're not caring about the answer, but when those answers come and maybe you've coached along the way in those lessons, what does that moment at the end, you've got students who've got solutions, what does that look like in your class right now?
Kyle Greenholt: Usually, we talk about how they modeled it or how they got it and they get to talk to the class about their reasoning and that type of thing. So, we really do break it down and talk about it after we get solutions and we get that kind of thing.
Jon Orr: Got it. I think when Kyle and I, remember, Kyle when we chatted about this years ago, about getting this engagement that we really were after and then we also realized that what we thought was going to translate into results, that I had so much engagement, engagement automatically would mean better results on the tests or the quizzes or they go back to their classes and all of a sudden, they're having that success or the standardized tests. I remember, we did this and then all of a sudden the standardized tests were not better, they were worse. I think we put our heads together after that and said, "What was happening here?"
I think what was happening for us was the connecting the dots or making something very intentional of what we wanted to pull out that day and telling the students, "This is what we're going to do." I'm wondering, when you're ending those lessons, is it like you're tying a big bow on it or is it like, "We've got some great work here, now let's go and practice," or what intentionality or have you thought about that intentionality at the end of those lessons? Because I think that can help a lot, of really steering the kids to go, "Look, at the end of today, we did this, this is what we want to do on a regular basis in this situation."
Kyle Greenholt: First, if it's just showing them that they have the growth mindset that they can work through these problems, they can struggle and get to an answer. And then usually, at the end, without giving them an algorithm, I try to give them a model or another more formal way of solving their problems, especially for the students who weren't able to get to the solution so that they can see another way that they can do it, too. So, that's how we really tie bow on it at the end, as well.
Kyle Pearce: I like it, I like it. So, I'm envisioning, it's like the nice opportunity for some students to do some problem solving, to maybe gain some confidence to also model thinking. I liked how you explicitly said, "Allowing them to share how they modeled," whether they use the model as a tool to help them find the answer or if it's a model just to try to convince other people of their answer, that's a really important piece. I'm wondering, when we go from that problem-based lesson, so if let's say... I should ask maybe, how often are you trying to integrate a lesson like that? Is that something you're trying to do a couple times a week, is it a once a week thing, and then I guess the other parts of the time, is that when they're working on the IXL?
Maybe that smaller group, more intentional, individualized kind of work, what does that look like and are they connected, I think is maybe my wonder, as well, when I do this lesson is is this lesson something that I'm going to then build off of for everyone like, "I'm going to give Jon some problems connected, if it was a lesson involving percentages and we are solving it on a double number line"? When we do some work, even if it's a little more individualized for the students in the room, is it going to be connected to percentages or will it be something like, "I'm at this level in IXL," so I'm going off into that world and it's not connected to the problem-based lesson. What does that look like?
Kyle Greenholt: So, usually, the problem-based lesson is one or two times a week, so it's certainly not our whole week, and then one or two times, we will also break apart and do small, individual learning based on the problems that we worked on in class or also what they're doing in their core class so that they're ready. And then also, there will be times where they're working on their own on their recommended IXL skills to help boost that score, as well.
Kyle Pearce: Now, I'm wondering, I'm going to go and I'm going to pull out our magic wand question for you. So, you've shared we're getting a good visual, it's still only a snapshot and this is one of the challenges hopping on and just chatting for a few minutes, but even when I go into a classroom and I always say to the teacher after, I'm like, "So, I saw one class out of 190 classes that you do a year or 180 classes you do a year, this is just one snapshot." Here, we have even less of a snapshot because it's all just verbal and being described. What specifically would you like, if we could wave that magic wand and something was to change, what's that thing that... So, we're basically like what's that real pebble that if you could shake it out now, it would just disappear and things would be a whole lot better than they are right now?
Kyle Greenholt: Just how can we really use the problem-based learning and show that on the IXL? I need to be able to make the scores go up without just focusing on a computer skill, that's really the devil in my school. That is it.
Jon Orr: Got it. Got it. What do you think right now is holding you back from that?
Kyle Greenholt: Probably the time, because I know I only have them for half a year and then they're going to leave that class and a whole nother group is going to come in, so it's that whole time element that I know I can't give them the time to fully wrestle like they need to.
Kyle Pearce: I'm wondering here, and we had a similar conversation the other day, this episode should be out before our current one we're recording here goes live, so that'll be interesting for you to listen to that one, as well, with, I think it was Laura, right, Jon, you had mentioned?
Jon Orr: Yeah.
Kyle Pearce: I think it was Laura we were chatting with, who is in a similar situation. I guess it's a wonder, and I don't know if you've grappled with this or not, but I know that I'm envisioning myself just like you, not only do we have the same name, but I'm picturing me being in the same shoes as you when I was working with some students struggling in a course that was essentially in our area, we call it, it's a locally developed course. These are students who have struggled typically and now, they're in a course where a lot of students are behind. I was really trying to drive home this problem-based approach, but I also wanted this other thing, which, and I know that they can work together, but we're in a very unique scenario where these students, no matter what all the teachers tried previously, and this for me was Grade 9 students, so you're a 6, 7, 8, so you're not that far off, but no matter what all those other teachers had tried in the past, these students still fell off that math wagon some way, somehow.
Maybe it was due to an LD or another designation, maybe it was absenteeism, it could be so many other things. My wonder to you is I'm wondering if maybe are we trying to bite off almost too much for a group of students that have traditionally struggled to stay on grade level? What I mean by that, to be super explicit, you've got this amazing goal of I want students to see problem solving can be satisfying and you have it in you to put effort and commitment, determination, and that stick-to-itiveness, I want you to have all these things. I also want you to develop these skills that you've struggled to develop over time and you only have them for this small amount of time.
I wonder is it possible that maybe we're trying to take too much on, maybe it's a one or the other, maybe it's a more one than the other, it doesn't have to be completely gone, but how does that hit with you? Do you ever feel like you're putting in all this effort here and then it sounds like what I heard is I'm putting all this effort in these problem-based lessons, I'm putting all this effort on this other side, but it seems like they're not fitting together. You're putting the effort in there, but you're not seeing the fruit of your labor coming through, would that be an accurate way to describe that?
Kyle Greenholt: That's pretty much dead-on. It's trying to do too much, I think.
Kyle Pearce: I wonder about that and I don't want to tell you what I might start with, but I kind of want to. I kind of want to say that-
Jon Orr: That's why he's here.
Kyle Pearce: In my mind, I even wonder, if it was just even for a little while and you were to go, "What are the things that are important about a problem-based lesson?" There's a lot of things, there's a ton, but some of the things that are important to me is context, giving kids context. I'm like, "Can I bring context into those small groups?" Imagine if, let's say, I dedicated every day to crafting stations, or some call them centers, where it's like, "I've got these things going on," where maybe this group of students is working on some IXL and then they rotate after 20 minutes to sit with you and you've got this activity that involves context.
It can still be a problem, it doesn't have to be naked math facts. It could be you now sitting in this small group working with the problem, but it may not have a notice and wonder, it may not have some of these other things, just so that now they can dig in and use that model, emerge those strategies. You could be there to question based on what you're seeing and then when they're done with you there for those 20 minutes, move along. I can't recall if you mention how long your periods are, so you'd obviously have to structure it to work within your class length, and then they move on to this next activity, which might be an extension of some of the work that you're doing, or maybe it's purposeful practice from something they did a couple weeks prior. So, it's not new content where they get hung up, but something to revisit something that they had done in the past.
I wondered if you maybe experimented with that, even if it was for a week or so, just to see if you notice some of that benefit happening. That doesn't mean that you have to stay that forever, but it's just to get you some traction, so you feel like this effort you're putting in there, it's going somewhere. You're not just putting all this energy in and it's just fading away and it's fizzling away, you're seeing some result there. There's a cause and effect to some of the work you're doing. How does that make you feel when I say that? Is that a relief to you? Does it make you sad? You're like, "Ah, I wanted this to work in a certain way"? Where's your head at when you hear something like that?
Kyle Greenholt: Ultimately, my head is just do whatever is best for my students, so that, I think, would definitely be a way to go about or try it, to maybe get the best of all the worlds that I'm looking for, or at least a little bit of all the worlds that I'm looking for.
Kyle Pearce: I love it.
Jon Orr: Would you say if you went into doing this this coming week or getting ready for it to do next week, what do you see to be a hiccup or a stumbling block or a barrier at this point that you could, say, remove?
Kyle Greenholt: Well, right now, it's just giving me more ideas, so it's the barrier of not having an idea of what to do, just that idea of the stations and rotate through really, really helps.
Kyle Pearce: Interesting. I wonder, do you have a resource? So, you have the IXL, which could be a heart of that work, so it's something that it's like, "Hey, that's easy enough," because it takes care of itself, in a way, you have to manage it on the backend, of course, but what about, let's say, what the students over there might be doing it? I'm picturing three stations, but it could be four, it could be whatever you choose. You have 10 students, so really, you could have three groups of three and a four in one of them type thing, so you could have these three stations. Do you have another resource that would be something that might be easy enough to have out there, but still meaningful so that it's connected to the work that students are doing? Or is this going to keep you up all night long having to try to plan and cut things out or whatever those activities look like?
Kyle Greenholt: That would certainly be more of the prep for me, finding those extension activities, because there's not really a resource that we have just ready to use.
Kyle Pearce: Got it. Got it. I'm even thinking, too, it could be something, as I say, simple, you'd still had to find them, I would encourage finding, not making, by the way, but finding, let's say, maybe that station might be more some games. Let's say maybe it's twice a week, it's games that work on fact fluency or it could even be something related to skip counting or something where it's, again, it's something that doesn't require you to be right there with them, but something that's going to be manageable for them. And then, of course, maybe on some of the days, there's something more practice based that might be, "Hey, in your team here, you have to quiz each other on who has type activity going on," or whatever that structure might look like.
You might be able to just pull some regular old problems out of a textbook or whatever you have laying around and just leverage a structure that you teach the students the structure and then leave the instructions on the table type thing, so there would be a little bit of prep there. But I just wonder in terms of you being able to maximize your time to spend in these small groups that are really intentional based on where students are and again, still leverage the questioning techniques that you would in a problem-based lesson, but once again, being able to be really intentional there. There's something that I think I know I missed in certain classes that I taught that weren't exactly like the intervention style you have, but similar characteristics, is that when Jon and I are sharing things like problem-based lessons, we're typically referencing your Tier 1 classroom.
It's the lesson, it's a typical classroom that students are in, and you're in this Tier 2, maybe even Tier 3 world, where we're talking about a deeper intervention, we're really trying to get at helping these students. I think the more time that you have to spend with them in a smaller group, because I'm trying to remember the book, but they say it's as soon as it's more than five or six people in a room and you're talking, everyone assumes you're not talking to them. This is for adults or students, the bigger the group becomes, the less you think the person's talking to you. But when you're in that small group of three and you're there and you're looking them all in the eye, and this is for you, this is not for the other students, you might be able to get a little bit more leverage, even though it might not seem as memorable as maybe a Math Moments problem-based lesson we might do with a typical Tier 1 classroom.
Kyle Greenholt: That's really helpful. Thank you so much.
Jon Orr: Kyle, what would you say is going to be your, say, biggest takeaway from the conversation and what you might put into action?
Kyle Greenholt: I think certainly, the stations and the grouping and the different activities that we could do in the stations, especially the ideas of playing games to work on skills and things like that, and then having just five of them to really give a concrete lesson and talking with them, that really helps.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it. Chunking it into small pieces, I think, will go a long way. I have a funny feeling that some of the students in your class might have short attention spans. I think all humans have shorter attention spans now, but you'll also notice some of those students who tend to require a little more support are easy to be distracted, so hopefully this gives you maybe something to try.
Of course, there's never a guarantee, but what we would love to know, though, is how things are going, so when you put this into action, let us know, stay in touch. We'd love to have you back on maybe six, nine months down the road and see where you're at, where your head's at. Maybe you tried that and it works and it's great or maybe you try it and you're like, "This wasn't working, but now I'm doing this other thing," and you might be able to bring that back to the audience so that the Math Moment Maker community can learn from that experience. So, would that be something you'd be open to if we were to reach out maybe six to nine months from now?
Kyle Greenholt: Absolutely.
Jon Orr: Awesome stuff. Awesome stuff. Thanks, Kyle. We wish you all the best coming to this current week and also all the other weeks.
Kyle Greenholt: Thank you.
Kyle Pearce: Well, as always, my friends, both Jon and I learn so much from engaging in these conversations. It really gets us thinking and reflecting on some of the ideas, some of the thoughts, some of the wonders, some of the structures that we often take for granted. Lately, we've had some conversations with Math Moment Makers like you who aren't in a typical classroom, in a Tier 1 classroom, and that's really had us thinking. It starts to make you wonder, I wonder if people listening to the podcast always understand the context in which we are sharing our ideas.
So, hopefully, tonight, I know for me, something I learned through this experience is that Jon, you and I, I think, have to do our best and maybe do better at trying to be as clear as possible in the situations, the conditions that take place when we're sharing some of our thinking, because there's something that you and I tried for a really long time and that is problem-based lessons. We are wholehearted believers in the problem-based lesson, but maybe things look a little different if there's some students who are not getting to where we'd like to see them get to, maybe we've got to change it up a little bit. Hopefully, that's that message that Kyle has taken away here in this conversation tonight.
Jon Orr: A great way you can hold yourself accountable and when you take away some of the ideas, maybe you have the same ideas Kyle just mentioned, maybe you are reflecting in a different way, but a great way you can hold yourself accountable on these ideas is jump into the free, private Facebook group we have over on Facebook at Math Moment Makers, or hey, connect with us @MakeMathMoments on social media like Twitter or Instagram. Message us, let us know what you are thinking, and just the fact that you're writing your ideas down let them sink in deeper, so make sure that you're reflecting so that you can get as much out of this as you're supposed to.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. One of my favorite ways for you to reflect and also to get us some feedback is by leaving a rating and review over on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast platform you are on. We receive a weekly email that gives us a summary of that feedback and my friends, this past week, we only received one, one review. Are you going to make it at least two or three or maybe it's 10? There's a lot of you listening out there, we'd love to hear from you, so go ahead, leave a rating and a review. Remember, you are helping to grow the audience of Math Moment Makers because you're telling the interwebs to share the podcast with more educators from around the world, so thank you in advance for that.
Jon Orr: This episode was a Math Mentoring Moment episode. These episodes only exist because of folks like Kyle, like Laura a couple episodes ago, who reach out to us and ask us to brainstorm what's on their mind, what's a pebble in their shoe that we can knock loose. These episodes only exist because of folks like them, they're brave, they step forward and say, "Hey, can I chat with you guys?" We want to do that with you, as well. We want to knock that pebble that you have that's keeping you up at night out of your shoe, so you can do that, all you have to do is message us. Head to makemathmoments.com/mentor, there's a little form there, click a button and let us know your pebble and then we'll chat, just like we did with Kyle here and we did with Laura a couple episodes ago. Please, we want to chat, makemathmoments.com/mentor, fill that form out.
Kyle Pearce: Fantastic, friends. Over on the makemathmoments.com website, we've got all those show notes, links, resources, complete transcripts, and for our district leaders out there, you can hit our district leader page, which is all about the Make Math Moments District Improvement Program, where we have conversations like the one we just did with Kyle, except we flip the script a little bit and we chat about your district and your district goal, so looking forward to chatting with you soon on an upcoming call for the District Improvement Program. Well, until next time, Math Moment Maker friends, my name is Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: I'm going to give you high fives for us.
Jon Orr: I'm going to give you a high five for you.
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